Theppakadu Mudumalai Forest Camp (MFC) in India


Theppakadu Mudumalai Forest Camp (MFC)
The twin bull elephants Sujay and Vijay (captive-born 1971 in Top slip). Photo © Jackie Chiger
The twin bull elephants Sujay and Vijay (captive-born 1971 in Top slip). Photo © Jackie Chiger

Typecamp

OwnerTamil Nadu Forest department
Founded1927
First elephant arrived1927
Address Masinagudi, Mudumalai sanctuary
Place Udhagamandalam
Region Tamil Nadu
Country India
Website Website

Directors: Chandana Raju (director)

Key People

Veterinarians 1953-2002: Vaidyanathan Krishnamurthy (head veterinarian)
2020: Rajesh Kumar (head veterinarian)

Elephant department

Head keepers
of elephants

Elephant keepers -: T. M. Bomman
-: M Eswaran
-: M. Kirumaran
-: K Shakthi
2000-2023: B Maran
Record history
History of updates2023-02-16

Latest document update2023-02-16 16:23:15
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Relevant literature
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Description

Theppakadu Mudumalai Forest Camp (MFC), located at Masinagudi, Mudumalai sanctuary, in Udhagamandalam, India , was founded in 1927 and the first elephant arrived in 1927.

Living elephants

At the Theppakadu Mudumalai Forest Camp (MFC) lives 25 elephants with records in this database: (detail list)
  1. Anna born ~1957
  2. Bhama born ~1949
  3. Bomman born <2000
  4. Cheeran born 1986-07-10
  5. Giri born >2009
  6. Harini
  7. Indhak
  8. Indhar born ~1948
  9. Jambo born <1987
  10. John born >1992
  11. Kamatchi born ~1957
  12. Mudumalai born ~1965
  13. Sankan
  14. Santhosh born 1975-05-15
  15. Sentilvadivu born ~1976
  16. Shankar born ~1967
  17. Srinivas
  18. Sujai (twin) born 1971-05-20
  19. Sumangala born ~1989
  20. Udayan born 1998-11-24
  21. unknown born 2016
  22. unknown born 2000
  23. Vijay (twin) born 1971-05-20
  24. Wasim born 1971-01-31
  25. Wilson born 1988-04-16

Comments / picturesTheppam means pond, and kadu means forest. Theppakadu elephant camp is located at the tri-junction of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka on the North Eastern Slopes of the Nilgiris part of Western Ghats, where it was established on the bank of the river Moyar in 1927 (officially established in 1972), although a similar predecessor existed nearby since 1910, and is regarded as the oldest elephant camp in India.

From 1953-2002 Dr. Vaidyanathan Krishnamurthy, Indias maybe most famous Vterinarian, was responsible for care and management of Theppakadus elephants. During his 45-year-old career in the Tamil Nadu Forest Department Dr Krishnamurthy managed to reform camp management for elephants in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, as well as other places in India. From 1953 to 1956 he performed post-mortem on 18 elephants, out of which 12 had been killed by poachers. He suggested the Tamil Nadu Government to introduce Temple Elephant rejuvenation camp which is now successfully followed. A considerable feat was the capture of the Makhna elephant Murthy, who killed 15 persons in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.


History from the past


At 6 pm, two elephants do puja, ringing a bell with their trunks at the small Ganesh, is a Hindu God'>Ganesh temple, which was built in the 1970s. After offering puja the elephants circle the temple and kneel down before the deity of Ganesh, is a Hindu God'>Ganesh. They are then fed and you can take part in feeding them sugar cane. After the feeding, an English-language film is shown about the park.

There is an Elephant Show on Saturdays and Sundays (Rs 20) at 6 pm. The show consists of elephant races through an obstacle course, elephant dancing and elephant soccer.

More elephants have been born at Theppakadu, the elephant camp near Mudumalai´s reception centre, than elsewhere in India.


1985: In Mudumalai camp, even though 110 female calves were born in the past, most of them were sold.

2002: Dr. Vaidyanathan Krishnamurthy retired, with totally 27 elephants at Mudhumalai (12 at Theppakadu camp, 15 at Abhayaranyam camp)

2009: the camp has 23 elephants, seven females (age ranging from 3 to 75 years) and 16 males (age ranging from 11 to 58 years). These elephants are let into forest for ranging, and brought to the camp for the routine stall fed and bathing.

2017: The camp was closed for four months after two of the elephants there, Narmada and Bharathi, died in December of 2017. Their deaths were said to have been caused by the elephants contracting bacterial infection, precipitated by the lack of rainfall within the reserve. After their deaths, the elephant camp was indefinitely closed by MTR officials until May 2017, when it opened again.

2018-04-09: The Theppakadu camp now has 23 elephants including a calf.

2022-08-11: The 28 elephants of Tamil Nadu Forest Department’s Theppakadu camp at Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR) in the Nilgiris, are cared for by some of the country’s most experienced mahouts, many of whom have transformed the lives of their elephants.

2022-08-29: Murthy and Mudumalai get retirement:

Theppakadu Mudumalai Forest Camp (MFC) in India India


2023-03-13: All 28 mahouts and their assistants (kavadis) in the camp are from tribal communities. Of the 28 elephants here, 21 including two makhnas (tuskless elephants) are male. Six have retired. In fact, both camp elephants and mahouts retire from service at the age of 58. “Maran though continues to help out at the camp because of his experience,”says D Venkatesh, field director, MTR.
“Taking care of elephants is not easy. Especially if they enter the camp as wild adults,” says Bomman. “It was easier for me when I took charge of Mudumalai because I grew up around him. He listens to everything I say. ”
When an abandoned elephant calf is brought to the camp, the forest department assigns a Mahout couple to rear it. Six years ago, a one and a half month old calf from Hosur forest, was handed over to K Bomman and his wife Bellie (the two featured in a recent documentary on the mahouts of Theppakadu). They nurtured the calf with milk powder, bamboo shoots ragi, rice, jaggery, coconut and sugarcane.
There began an emotional journey for Bellie as it was her first assignment as a full-time caretaker. “We took care of Raghu as our child,” says Bomman, who has been a Mahout for 28 years. Three years later, the couple was assigned an abandoned three-month-old female calf, ‘Bommi’, rescued from Sathyamangalam forest. “Our joy doubled. It was hard, but we enjoyed those years,” says Bomman. Then, one and half years ago, six-year-old Raghu and three-year-old Bommi were transferred to younger mahouts for care, and Bomman was assigned another elephant, Krishna. Bellie was relieved from her post.
“My wife and I were upset when Raghu and Bommi were taken away from us. Bellie did not like to come to the camp after that as she would get upset seeing Raghu and Bommi. Even the elephants would get distressed when they saw her and trouble their mahouts. I don’t go near them when I am in the camp,” says Bomman.
Like Bellie, there are a few woman mahouts in the camp. In 2010, when Kaveri and Semmozhian were brought to the camp as calves, a Kurumba couple, Manban and Badisi, were assigned as their caretakers. However, both elephants died in 2016 due to ill health.
Maran-Bama, a Mahout assigned to 73-year-old Bama, the oldest in the camp, says taking care of an elephant is an emotional journey. “I sometimes feel the elephants understand our tribal languages, be it Kurumba, Kattunayakans or Malasar,” he says.
“There has been a long line of exciting accounts of successful rehabilitation of orphaned elephant calves in the hands of camp keepers in Theppakadu. The traditional wisdom of the malasars, kurumbas and kattunayakkans who mantle the role of mahouts or kavadis (assistants) in these camps has earned wider acclaim for the captive management of elephants in the state,” says T Sekar, former principal chief conservator of forests, Chennai.
“The forest department is working to upgrade the skills of mahouts. Recently, a dozen from the state were sent on a crosscountry exchange programme to Thailand. There is a need though to develop a new generation of animal keepers from among the tribal youth so the traditional wisdom of mahouts and kavadis is passed on.




From the book In the Village of the Elephants :

Focusing on Bomman, the son of a Mahout, and Mudumalai, his father\'s elephant, the book charts a typical day in the life of the team. The elephants, once used for logging, are seen here in their contemporary role as forest rangers, patrolling the preservations and crop fields.

Lively photographs depict activities ranging from the morning bath in the river to the noontime feeding of the village elephants (Mudumalai receives 20-pound balls of specially concocted porridge) and correspond effectively to the text, which places the reader in the middle of the action ("Having an elephant throw sticks at you might seem like a strange way to wake up, but for Bomman it happens almost every morning").

On a larger scale, the book thoughtfully demonstrates how both humans and animals have had to adapt to a changing world.

References for records about Theppakadu Mudumalai Forest Camp (MFC)

Recommended Citation

Koehl, Dan (2024). Theppakadu Mudumalai Forest Camp (MFC), Elephant Encyclopedia. Available online at https://www.elephant.se/location2.php?location_id=654. (archived at the Wayback machine)

Sources used for this article is among others:


Theppakadu Mudumalai Forest Camp (MFC) on elephant-news.com

Theppakadu Mudumalai Forest Camp (MFC) is mentioned on Elephant News:

DateLinks which opens in new window
2003-07-20Dr. v. krishnamurthy , an ardent conservationist and a pioneer in designing programmes for captive elephant care - Elephant News
Twelve elephants shifted due to rain - Elephant News
2009-08-24Elephants participate in chaturthi celebrations - Elephant News
2011-12-15Tamil nadu government organises vacation for temple elephants - Elephant News
A jumbo graduation - Elephant News
2020-10-19Mudumalai tiger reserve gets a dedicated wildlife veterinarian - Elephant News
Kumki ‘blinded’ by mahout’s assistant at theppakadu - Elephant News
2022-08-11Meet the mahouts at theppakadu camp in mudumalai who have transformed the lives of their elephants - Elephant News


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